- White discharge commonly occurs three to five days before the start of your period.
- This happens because hormonal changes can increase the mucus produced by your vagina.
- But white discharge along with itching or burning could be a sign of a yeast infection or an STD.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Finding vaginal discharge on your underwear is normal. Discharge is fluid that keeps the vagina lubricated and helps protect it from infections. You’ll often notice changes in color, consistency, and quantity throughout your menstrual cycle.
Right before your period starts, you may notice white or creamy discharge in your underwear. Here’s why it happens and when you should worry about it.
White discharge before your period
The white discharge you notice before your period is common. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about and is only a sign that your period is about to start.
The medical term is for this discharge is leukorrhea. It is made up of fluid and dead cells that shed from your vagina as it cleans itself. Your vaginal discharge could be white, creamy, milky, clear, or sticky.
“Most women have an increase in vaginal discharge a few days prior to their period,” says Kecia Gaither, MD, a double board-certified OB/GYN and director of perinatal services at NYC Health. “This is due to hormonal effects which cause an increase in mucus production in the vagina.”
When you notice a thick white discharge, it’s typically a sign that you are about to ovulate. When you are ovulating, you will also notice a clear and stretchy discharge.
Ovulation is the stage of your menstrual cycle where an egg is released from your ovary. This is when you are most fertile and most likely to get pregnant. You might also experience a brownish discharge just after your period ends.
“It’s most common to get white discharge three to five days before your period comes. It’s nothing to worry about except if it’s chunky, has a strong odor, is green, yellow or grey, or causes irritation,” says Sophia Yen, MD, CEO of Pandia Health and a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medical School.
When to see a doctor about white discharge
When other symptoms like itching and burning accompany your regular discharge it might indicate an infection. If you also notice a change in color, texture, smell, and quantity you might want to speak to a doctor.
Here are some other causes of white discharge and conditions that could cause it you should be aware of.
A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of yeast in your vagina. It’s also known as vaginal candidiasis. Pregnancy, diabetes, antibiotics, oral contraception or sex might be responsible for this overgrowth.
One of the symptoms of a yeast infection is thick white discharge in your underwear. This discharge looks different from typical discharge because it is lumpier and has the consistency of cottage cheese. You may also experience the following symptoms:
- Pain when urinating or during sex
Yeast infections are very common – more than 1 million women in the US get yeast infections every year. They can easily be cleared up in a few days with some over the counter anti-fungal medication. But if your symptoms persist, then you should see a doctor about it.
When you have bacterial vaginosis, there is an upset in the balance of bacteria in your vagina, and it doesn’t produce enough good bacteria to keep the bad ones in check. This imbalance can be caused by taking antibiotics, douching, using an IUD, or sex.
People with bacterial vaginosis will often experience no symptoms other than a thin white discharge accompanied by a strong fishy smell. Sometimes, the color of the discharge might also be dull gray or green.
This condition is usually mild and could go away on its own in a few days. But if you experience symptoms like itching or burning when you pee, then you should see your doctor, who can prescribe antibiotic pills or creams.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is caused by a parasite called trichomonas vaginalis which is passed from an infected person to an uninfected person during sex.
This condition can cause a frothy white, yellow, or green discharge. It may also cause:
- Pain when urinating
- An unpleasant odor
About 3.7 million people have trichomoniasis in the US. It’s typically treated with antibiotics that need to be taken for about 5 to 7 days. The most effective way to prevent the infection is by using condoms when having sex.
White discharge in your underwear before or even after your period is usually no cause for concern.
The amount and texture of the discharge can vary – while some women might notice only trace amounts, others may have as much as a teaspoon full. It is also not always completely white, and it can be creamy or clear, like an egg white.
However, if you notice certain symptoms along with your discharge, then you should see your doctor, as it might be a sign of an infection.
“It’s important to know the difference between everyday discharge and discharge you need to see your doctor about. If it has a strong odor, or its bright yellow, green or grey, if it’s itchy or it causes swelling, burning, or irritation then it might be a sign of an infection,” says Yen.